Blink Experienced – Seeing The Big Picture

I went to Ottawa last weekend. Deb and I left after my 8:30 AM class on Saturday and we got there around 4:30 PM. I didn’t speed very much because there were so many police along the 401 – 4 or 5 radar check points on Saturday and 3 or 4 on Sunday on the way home. They got a lot of people, I get the feeling they paid for one of their nice new cars this weekend. People broke the law and they got caught, that’s all there is to it.

Deb doesn’t drive but she’s a great passenger. She has a skill for reading the road for potential problems. She seems to know when there are police around. It’s a weird skill, but it became very clear this weekend what is going on. We happened upon a blink moment were the world made sense. Her’s is a skill that we all can possess but most fail to take advantage of.

Deb is very bright and since she doesn’t drive so she has to entertain herself other ways. I’m pretty bright, but I’m distracted when I drive because I have to focus on not crashing the car or driving off the road. My role is basically to keep the car and the passengers safe. I focus only on what can potentially harm us which means the east bound lanes if I’m driving east and the west bound lanes if I’m driving west. But Deb is free to look at whatever she likes and she does. She picks up on patterns that I have to ignore. Specially, as it applies to keeping the police away, she does look at the other side of the road and she notices when the cars slow down.

There is an order to the way people drive. When traffic volume is low and allows for people to drive how they choose, as you find along the 401 between Toronto and the 416 cut-off, people generally drive a particular way. There is a normal distribution of car speeds much like the curve associated with IQ scores with most cars travelling within 15 Km / h of the speed limit. There are a couple of things that will lower these speeds consistently, one is a car crash the other is a police office with a radar gun or manning a speed trap.

Like a car crash, the speed trap will only slow the drivers down for a short period of time – we habituate the threat rapidly and return to our normal driving speed within 3 or 4 Km. However, a speed trap will slow down traffic on BOTH sides of the road not just the side that is getting monitored. What this means is that if you notice a sudden decrease in the speed of on coming traffic, there is likely a police office around.

Sure enough, this is what we noticed. There is a decrease in the speed of oncoming cars as you near a speed trap. It is subtle, but it does exist and it makes complete sense that one would be able to pick up on it. Deb is open to this piece of information because she doesn’t have to focus just on the traffic in the lanes in front of her. She is able to see the big picture and create an understanding based on these extra pieces of information.

Regardless of our ability to predict speed traps based on the behavior of other drivers, you shouldn’t speed because it’s dangerous.